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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
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Tuesday - December 17, 2013

From: Van, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives, Plant Identification
Title: Identity of mystery plant in non-native commercial forage mix
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Dear Smart One, I use a commercially prepared, fortified, chopped forage based on a mix of orchard and Timothy grasses. The bags are shipped in from out of State. However, I have been finding short sections of some sort of weed stalk that is hollow and speckled with purplish brown specks or spots. I can send photos. I know what I'm thinking it is since I have to maintain pastures here in East Texas but would like someone who is trained in identifying plants to look at the photos -- or even samples. I do not believe this needs to be in a commercial mix. Thank you in advance for your reply!

ANSWER:

First, let me remind you that the mission of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is "to increase the sustainable use and conservation of native wildflowers, plants and landscapes."  "Native" refers to North American natives—those that have historically existed here without human introduction.  Neither of the two grasses you name, Phleum pratense (Timothy) and Dactylis glomerata (Orchardgrass), is native to North America.  They are European grasses that were introduced in North America in the 1700s and 1800s and, thus, are out of our area of expertise.   I suspect the mystery plant is also non-native. 

Here are a few plants that somewhat meet your description of a weed with a hollow stem that is blotched with purplish or brownish spots.  The first two are native:

Eutrochium fistulosum (Joe-pye weed)  Here are more photos from Native & Naturalized Plants of the Carolinas & Georgia.

Phytolacca americana (American pokeweed)  Here are more photos and information from Ohio Perennial and Biennial Weed Guide.

Here are possibilities that are not native plants:

Conium maculatum (Poison hemlock) and Heracleum mantegazzianum (Giant hogweed)

Datura stramonium (Jimson weed)

Below is a list of weed guides that you can look through to see if you can identify your plant:

You can visit our Plant Identification page to find links to several plant identification forums that will accept photos for identification.

Probably your best bet for finding out the identity of the mystery plant, however, is to contact the Van Zandt County office of the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Service.

 

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